November 16, 2013
I spent the remainder of the week observing in the Out Patient Department and shadowing in the medical ward. To the patients here, I must look like a taciturn, somewhat scruffy white man in ill-fitting green scrubs, looking over doctors’ shoulders attempting to appear knowledgeable. I get some, not unwarranted, looks of bemusement from time to time, which I fend off with a smile and a greeting. This seems to almost always break the ice. I’ve found the majority of people here to be exceptionally friendly, a trait I’m told that is especially indicative of this region of Cameroon.
On Saturday the hospital soccer team (Porres FC) had a match in Bamenda vs. a team called Cha Cha FC (FC stands for football club). Just past noon, 25 of us packed into a van and a car and road tripped to Bamenda for the match. The van, with a huge banner draped across the front spelling out “St. Martin de Porres Hospital Social Club, Njinikom,” pulled out first, while myself and five others waited for two more passengers to make our already overfull car, more thoroughly full. Despite the head start, we were able to overtake the more heavily loaded van on one of the road’s many steep inclines on the way to Bamenda. As we maneuvered out from behind the van’s cloud of black smoke and began our labored, uphill, slow motion overtake, seventeen hunched over, crammed together guys looked back and cheered us on in a spirit of jocular camaraderie. Having considerably more mass and a more aggressive driver, they got their payback going down hill and for the remainder of the trip we trailed behind in their wake of black diesel exhaust.
By 2:30 we arrived at the “field.” Since it has no grass, it’s hard to call it a field, so I guess that’s why they refer to it as a pitch. Due to a scheduling conflict we had to wait for two other games to be played before taking the “field.” I got to play forward for most of the game, but unfortunately was unable to produce any goals. We lost 2-0. Afterward, Cha Cha FC hosted a reception for us at their team’s little “hole-in-the-wall” bar. They fed us peppe soup with plantains and cocoa yams and beef, and beers, too.
They take their soccer pretty seriously here, but in a light hearted sort of way. There’s structure and ritual tied up in the sport. Each team has a cabinet consisting of a president, vice president, and a “chief whip.” The presidents and VPs got to sit at what was called the high table and their chief whips facilitated the flow of the evening’s proceedings, operating like both MCs and drill sergeants. Everyone had to introduce themselves and there were speeches and chants and special songs that everyone was expected to sing. If someone was talking out of line or wasn’t clapping or singing with appropriate zeal, it was the chief whip’s job to single them out by making them stand up and apologize (a lesson I learned the hard way), or sing a song solo, or buy the high table a round of beers. In one case a group of distracted players from Cha Cha FC suffered the full wrath of the chief whip and was made to get up and sing a song while dancing in a circle and holding a beer on top of their heads, which was then given to the high table. The rituals and the punishments were all in good fun and pretty hilarious at times. With the concluding remarks by the presidents, the theme of the evening was emphasized as one of building new bonds new friendships and the continuation of a healthy rivalry between Porres FC and Cha Cha FC. The next meeting between the two teams will take place in Njinikom, and Porres FC will be the ones hosting the reception. Not sure when that will be, but hopefully sometime before I leave.
About the author: Drew Fink is a graduate of University of Wisconsin where he was a pre-med student. He travelled to Cameroon to do a 3 month internship at the St. Martin de Porres Hospital in Njinikom.
The hospital is managed by MFH in-country partner Sr. Xaveria Ntenmusi and the Tertisary Sisters of St. Francis – Cameroon. These are entries from Drew’s journal about his experiences in Cameroon.